Subjects: Syria; North Korea; Racism in sport.
HOST: It’s a very big good morning to Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese.
PYNE: Good morning David, Will and Anthony.
ALBANESE: Good morning team.
HOST: Now guys we missed it last week because you were both away but the big story in the world over the last week obviously has been the US’s decision to intervene in the situation in Syria in light of the Assad regime’s use of suspected sarin gas against its civilian population. To you first Christopher, did you support what Donald Trump did there?
PYNE: Very much so. The role of the United States in the world is to ensure that regimes like the Assad regime don’t believe they can get away with what is effectively a war crime. And the use of Tomahawk missiles to bomb the air field from which the war crime emanated is a proportionate and reasonable response to a hideous act on behalf of the Assad regime, so I do strongly support it.
HOST: What’s Labor’s position on this Albo? Were Labor in favour of the US’s actions in intervening in the way in which it did?
ALBANESE: Well, Labor supported it as well. We were properly briefed as is appropriate for national security issues by the Government. Chemical weapons have been outlawed by the United Nations along with cluster bombs, along with land mines, and the idea that chemical weapons would be used on children is just abhorrent and we need to never see their like again and hence I think there obviously was a need for the international community to have a response. Syria is a complete mess. I don’t think there are simple solutions to the Syrian issue. I think actually that Julie Bishop as the Foreign Minister has handled Syria in all its complexity as well as anyone could have.
HOST: To you again Chris Pyne, how worried are you? I noticed that Albo just mentioned the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. A couple of weeks ago she talked about the briefing that she had had about the potential for North Korea, if not now then possibly within a couple of years, to reach Australia through some kind of nuclear attack, be it in retaliation to what the US does or off its own bat. It’s pretty hard to get a bead exactly on what is happening in Pyongyang, but it’s disturbing, the manner in which the North Koreans are behaving, isn’t it?
PYNE: It’s incredibly disturbing. The North Korea situation, I think, is the most dangerous in the world right now. I know it sounds surprising to say so, but there is a predictability about the war in the Middle East – in Syria and Iraq – and of course the Allies there are winning that war slowly but surely and there will be a solution at some point which probably won’t be perfect, but we know generally how that will all end, whereas in North Korea there is an unpredictability about the regime. And of course it also has quite significant capability which it keeps proving through its missile testing and so it is a very dangerous cauldron in North Korea led by a man who is not only delusional but also probably brainwashed over several generations in what is called the Hermit Kingdom into believing that he has an exceptional status. So the United States and China and of course Japan and South Korea and others need to play a very significant role in containing the North Korean regime and when I was in Washington last week obviously I had discussions with Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis about these kinds of matters and I think China needs to play a very significant role in making sure that North Korea doesn’t make a misstep.
HOST: Shifting gears now guys …
ALBANESE: If I might just make one comment – South Park – a couple of years ago the creators did a satire about North Korea and I think it was a very brave move because it is not clear whether it is satire or a documentary.
HOST: Team America.
ALBANESE: This guy is a complete fruit bat and that is of real concern.
HOST: Chris Pyne, I think where David was about to take you was to the events that came out of the showdown on the weekend with regard to racism and, Albo, I’d be interested I your take on this too. There has been some words written this morning by Mark Robinson to suggest that the issue of racism is somehow a peculiarly South Australian one. Do you think we have a particular problem here in your home state?
PYNE: No, I don’t think so. I think the issues around racism in sport have unfortunately been dogging sport for a very long time. There is no place for racism in sport. It’s quite pathetic, quite frankly, in this day and age, that we even have to deal with these issues and I think Port Adelaide took the right step in suspending the membership of their supporter who had been racially vilifying one of the Crows players and it’s a pity that the Crows supporter who was vilifying Paddy Ryder got away without any sanction because they weren’t able to be identified and disappeared. But clubs and the sport in general need to take a very firm line. They do. I think they basically get it right and that it is basically fans who have got to pull themselves together and stop behaving like idiots.
HOST: Albo, you are a Hawks man and obviously three of the players who have brought so much joy to the fans of the Hawks over the last decade – one of them is no longer there, Lance Franklin – but thinking about Burgoyne and Rioli, these blokes have brought so much to the game. Do you think, as Port’s Justin Westhoff has said this morning, that we should consider life bans for people who can’t behave like civilised human beings at the football and racially vilify players?
ALBANESE: I think that is a pretty reasonable response frankly. One of the fantastic things about footy is that everyone is just a footballer on the field. You know you have people of different ethnic backgrounds now as well as the first Australians making contributions, doing their best for their team. But I defy anyone who is a supporter of any team to watch Cyril Rioli’s performance in the Grand Final a couple of years ago and just not say: Wow what an athlete! How people look at colour when they are looking at these magnificent athletes who Christopher, I and you two would just dream about doing one of the things they do …
PYNE: My footy days are well and truly over just like your runway days Anthony.
ALBANESE: If ever they began.
HOST: Did you play for St Ignatius, Chris?.
PYNE: Of course I did. But you know Anthony’s runway days are over, my footy days are over.
HOST: You would have been a small goalkicking forward pocket I reckon Christopher Pyne. Is that accurate?
PYNE: I think that I was in the very back (inaudible) pocket in the defence where all the most useless players seemed to end up for St Ignatius.
HOST: It could have been centre half bench, which is always much worse.
ALBANESE: I’ll say this – it’s not just on AFL. I was at a rugby league game a few years ago and people were getting stuck into, it happened to be they were getting into a Souths player on the basis of his Aboriginality and all of the people around them dealt with it really clearly.
HOST: In the traditional Souths fashion, mate?
ALBANESE: Well, the bloke left. The bloke left and that was a good thing. They just made it uncomfortable for him. No one threatened him, but they just said Mate, you know, just leave. They did it a little less politely than that, but they dealt with it and I reckon that overwhelmingly supporters are disgusted with this. When you have a gentleman like Adam Goodes treated the way that he was for a period there, you know it is unacceptable. People go to the footy because they respect each other and it is good that the clubs really do take action and the AFL, I think, has done a magnificent job ever since, well before, but the Michael Long incident really was the turning point.
HOST: Well, it has taken the Assad regime, Kim Il-sung and racist footy fans to do it, but after about a year and a half we have breakout of total consensus on Two Tribes. Good on you guys. Thanks fellows, we’ll do it again next week.
ALBANESE: Good on you
PYNE: Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.